Every great product started with an awesome idea and people who were skilled and motivated enough to see it through. There are ideas and products everywhere, but only a handful survive or thrive in the market. A few even manage to become household names.
Maybe they are just lucky. However, a great deal of those survivors are there because they combined many or all of the key ingredients for a successful product.
A problem to solve
Products are created to meet specific customer needs. It could be the parents who want a better way to communicate with their kid at college, the college student that needs to order cheaper books or the marketing guru that needs to reach a broader audience. Some problems we didn’t even know existed until there was a solution. We never knew we wanted the ability to call a ride through an app on our phones until Uber came along. Start by finding a specific problem to solve, and focus entirely on that.
The need to solve your original problem shouldn’t go away once you’ve decided on a product. The answer to this problem is the guide for everything you and your teams do. A great product team is always thinking about the customer and the why.
The right product
Once you have the problem, you can create the solution. If we know people are looking for a better way to keep track of and share notes, we’ll create something like Evernote. Once you have the right problem in mind, the solution will become clearer, and you’ll have a stronger method of development. Make sure you have the right vision, test it out and use data that supports it. Then you can decide which ideas are outstanding and which ones won’t work.
In his popular TED talk, Apple fellow and evangelist Guy Kawasaki states the importance of getting the right product, not the perfect product.
Clearly defined customers
Now that you have a problem to solve and your solution, who is it for, and why? We all want our products to be for everyone, but it’s important to focus on the particular person who will be using your product. Those are the people you are going to trust to give you all the information you need to improve your product and features until it’s ready for launch.
The product team are the ones with A* knowledge of the customers, and this guides every aspect of development. It’ll tell you what features to add, how the user should experience your product, what prices they’re willing to pay, and how the marketing team should reach them. You need to know everything about your target market, from their age to whether they’re comfortable making purchases via mobile devices. And if you’re going to get that specific, you couldn’t possibly target everyone!
A dream team
Just as important as having the right product, is having the right team. Gather a group of people that are passionate about your product and their role in developing it. You don’t just want people who will work well together; you want people who will challenge each other, won’t settle for standard and genuinely want to build something great. This dream team will be easy to motivate because they are already coming into the project with the know-how and the determination to see it through.
While, as a product manager, you may not have direct control over who to hire and who to fire, but you should have at least a say in who joins your team. Look for people who ask you the most interesting questions and who genuinely have a passion for what you’re working on.
Imagine the top four on this list as the dry ingredients, or your base. Start with those and from there you can mix-in your development strategy and roll out your product roadmap. Talk to your customer base about that problem you want to solve, decide on the most important features, and brainstorm with your team. Put everything together, and you’ll have a solid foundation going into development.
Before you start on your strategy, you need to have a solid product vision. Use your vision to define your goals and objectives. Then you can use these to create your roadmap. Then you need to double back and make sure your roadmap matches your product vision. If that sounds repetitive, think of it as a way to make sure your strategy is watertight.
Now that you have a clear plan use it to develop something that will have mass appeal among your defined customer. Give it features that at least 80% of the people in your target segment would love to use. Support this claim with the right data, support everything you do with data as much as possible. And ensure build something a lot of people want because it will make their lives easier and better.
But don’t forget to find the balance between mass appeal, and appealing specifically to your target market. If you start designing for too broad an audience, you’ll lose what makes your product useful to the people you originally wanted to solve problems for.
Take those concepts that have mass appeal and mold them into something unique. Give your product an edge, (keep it simple). Maybe it’s the design or image of your product that stands out, a unique take on a simple feature, something that makes the product be able to survive on its own.
“You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the marketplace.”David Ogilvy
Here’s where your design team shines. Looks do matter. People love products that are beautifully built (and of course functional). Like Apple, Snapchat, Uber and Flipboard, which are all visually pleasing and engaging, that’s why they work so well. Beautiful products also increase user retention. You are telling a story with your product, so tell a story with design too.
People don’t need to get everything from one app; they need one product that works well for the one thing it’s supposed to do. Get feedback on your prototype, then remove something. Do this a few times. Breaking it down until you only keep what you need, it’s sleek and ready to share with the world.
Get out there. Talk to bloggers, leaders on Facebook and Twitter; people that other people follow for great reasons. Don’t shy away from asking for their feedback, getting them involved in what you are building and take what they have to say into account. They’ll be more invested in the product later and want to share their involvement and contribution with their audiences.
And don’t underestimate the value of your own social media presence. Even if your product is not B2B, if you’ve already built up a network on LinkedIn (if not then build one!) you can use it to spread news about your product. You can get started at any stage in development so people can follow the journey of your product, giving them more of a sense of investment. Your LinkedIn connections may end up becoming clients.
Don’t bake it for too long. A good product manager knows when to say no, when to stop adding features, when what you have is ready and when to just launch.
“Done is better than perfect.”Sheryl Sandberg
This goes without saying, make sure the product is done. Don’t launch too early. It’s not a failure if you need to delay launch, it’s a failure if you press the green button and it fails to catch on in the market.